A Deltan Decameron
|Title:||A Deltan Decameron|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: The Original Series|
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It was published in the print zine T'hy'la #12.
"Spock learns to release his fantasies in order to aid in his relationship as Kirkʼs lover."
Reactions and Reviews
Amanda has warned Spock that he will need to explore his sexuality and come up with variety to keep Kirk from straying once his charming naivete has lost its appeal. Now Kirk does seem to be bothered by Spock's inability to dream and fantasize. Spock is assigned a mission to Delta, where he is wildly disturbed by the pervasive sexuality, discovers that the society's androids have developed consciousness (leading to all kinds of upheaval), and acquires two books that capture dreams. He sends one to Kirk, though they are a bit on the outs after Kirk sees him in a compromising scene with his household androids. Sorrowful at Spock's inability to enjoy love, which is connected with his inability to dream, the android Jai tells him to open and use what he has seen of his (Jai's) consciousness. This will let Spock dream, and he can catch the dreams in the book. There follow the dreams, labeled as types of love, then the framing story ends with their reconciliation on Enterprise. Many of the dreams are very evocative and compelling.
- 1. Storge: Kirk and Spock as young brothers. Jimmy kills his hated father by sugaring the tractor, and Spock lets him.
- 2. Pragma: Spock is making a very proper visit to James, son of the Terran ambassador and his betrothed. They are improperly left alone and James deliberately seduces him in an attempt to rush the wedding by bringing on pon farr.
- 3. Mania: Kirk as sadistic "Daddy" requiring Spock's humiliation and obedience.
- 4. Eros: Kirk as a pirate with his blind sidekick Gary, who turns tricks to pay his way. They have kidnapped an adolescent Spock, and are just finished initiating him into sex when Sarek bursts in with troopers.
- 5. Ludus: Kirk as a demanding, unfaithful bitch to Spock, richest man in the quadrant and obsessively in love.
- 1. Storge - Kirk as victim to Spock (presumably) as Count Vlad. In a nice twist, the vampire, in taking Kirk, takes his body, discarding his former one like a snakeskin and keeping Kirk buried alive inside him.
- 2. Pragma: Young dandy James is betrothed to the Earl of Gothos, whom he does not love, and his uncle Leonard tries to talk him out of it, knowing he loves another. He is rescued by Spock as a highwayman.
- 3. Ludus: Jim believes himself to be Faustus, and calls up a spirit (McCoy) which then disappears and, in order to effect a cure, sends his Spock down all duded up as Mephistophilis. Under pretext of checking out his soul before sealing the contract, Mephisotphilis melds with him, then makes love to him to bring him back to himself. Don't know why that was supposed to work, but this one was very charming.
- 4. Eros: Kirk visits the Museum of the Real, where he encounters his governess, Aurelan, dismissed for marrying his brother George (who has just been killed in action at Ypres, 1913). He meets Puck, who seduces him and turns out to be his new tutor, with whom he will now live.
- 5. Agape: Spock has been living in hiding as an ill nobleman of the Byzantine (?) Empire, a devout miracle-worker, so that he isn't seen much. A group of galley-slaves are brought onto his estate for the night. Spock talks to one is tending another, formerly a doctor and now dying, and the man expresses the wish that he would die soon so that his last hours would not be spent suffering under the whips. In the night, Spock brings a poison. The man "dies" and Spock takes the body, leaving it in the care of his pupil Hypatia, then takes his place among the galley slaves. 
Ironically, some of the most "literary" stories in fan fiction have been the least popular. I can think of at least one story, Frances Rowes' "A Deltan Decameron," that was trashed in the LoC zines a few years ago for being too literary, and the author hasn't published any K/S fan fiction since. 
Much as I admire the skill that went into this wonderfully written in an innovative way that screamed of the author's talent, I cannot say that "A Deltan Decameron" worked for me. When I finished reading it, I had a dissatisfied frown upon my face. I felt the story promised far more than it delivered. The first and foremost duty of any author, the purpose of any story, in my opinion, is to make the reader care. No technical proficiency can overcome the need for this most basic requirement. And this is where "A Deltan Decameron" fails amost obviously. This story was intellectually intriguing, but it was much more irritating than it was intriguing. It did not involve my heart. I didn't care about these characters, or what happened to them.
I can't comment on any of the subtleties that might excite a reader differently educated than myself. References to Greek mythology roar over my head, and poetic connections are nice, but don't lend substance where there is none to be found. It's a different kind of subtlety that excites me, one of the soul: nuances of character are what I seek. These are universally understood.
If the insights that an author has are not expressed in a way that is reachable to the average reader, then those insights are like seed that is sown on rocky ground. It doesn't takes root. It won't flower and be perceived. I saw the seed in this story, but I never saw any plants bloom. The question is. Why? Each reader's answer will be different. But for me part of the answer lies in the way I was faced with trying to make sense out of some very nonsensical behavior. The basic structure and assumptions of the story that framed the ten dreams was difficult for me to accept.
First, the whole concent that Kirk and Soock would bond while Spock is still so terribly inhibited seems highly unlikely. Why would Kirk enter into a liaison that he knows is doomed to be very frustrating to him? Why would Spock bond with him knowing that he appears to be constitutionally incapable of giving his bondmate what he needs? An affair where the two of them are struggling towards some balance I could understand: the commitment of a bonding seems illogical under such circumstances.
I found the scene between Spock and Amanda to be trying in the extreme. Amanda was condescending to her own son and all-knowing, all-wise in such an annoyingly omnipotent way. Her presence was a plot device used to impart specific information to the reader. The story presented Amanda in a merely symbolic role that strained my imagination past its bounds. I feel that it would have been wiser for Spock to have gained this kind of insight in a different way, one that did not involve stretching a known character past the point of credulity.
Third, the scene where Kirk concludes that Spock is being unfaithful to him was unbelievable. Since this scene provides the true impetus for the rest of the plot, its careful delineation was essential. But I couldn't see bow Kirk could jump to his conclusion of infidelity, given the scene as it was presented. I literally couldn't 'see' what all the fuss was about. I couldn't 'see' it in that way in my mind. After all, Kirk knows of the sensuous nature of the Deltans and how his bondmate would find their effusive behavior difficult to handle. And he didn't exactly catch Spock with his pants down, either. Nor did I find it likely that Kirk would allow such skimpy evidence to cause an estrangeaent between him and the being with whom he has formally joined his life.
Now, the reason this scene did not work, in my opinion, is because of the skimpiness of the detailing, both physically in setting it, and emotionally in providing insight into the characters' minds. This was a problem that I encountered throughout the novella, and it is symptomatic of a particular type of writing that I have found before. It's a type of writing where the reader is required to 'fill in the details' because the author does not.
One example of the detailing problem among many occurs towards the end of "A Deltan Decameron." We are told that Kirk is expecting Spock back momentarily, and then we are treated to his enraged reaction when his lover apparently follows Starfleet orders to stay on Delta and deal with the problems the emancipating the androids have produced. Then, in the next scene, suddenly Spock is back on board the Enterprise, talking with Uhura in the rec room past midnight. I had to read each of these scenes over three times simply to get the sense of what was happening. Where was Spock when and why? What was the timing involved? And the two sentence explanation of Spock's initial meeting with Kirk once he's back on board didn't make since to me no matter how many times I read it.
The problem with these scenes points to the second major flaw that, in my opinion, prevents this brilliantly imaginative novella from succeeding. And that is really the two-headed task of drawing connections and drawing conclusions from what one writes. The three scenes I just mentioned were not connected in a basic structural way that would tell the reader what was going on. I'm not talking about the kind of detail that you can leave out to deliberately tantalise a reader so that they are drawn further into the plot. I'm talking about the basic who, what, and where that any reader needs simply to make sense of the words on the page. This was also true of the scene where Kirk discovers Spock with the Deltans and jumps to the conclusion of infidelity. I kept reading it, wondering what it was Kirk was seeing that I kept missing. I found the need to continually go back and re-read to make sense of it, a very frustrating experience.
And this lack of connectedness is reflective of the lack of emotional insight that I mentioned earlier. I didn't feel that the author was willing to let her readers 'feel.' This problem is most obvious in the dream sequences that form fully half of this story. Much is designed to present a form of 'love' from either Spock or Kirk's perspective. But what did they really mean, in concrete real terns, to this relationship that we can only presume they want to sort out? (We've got to presume this because the author doesn't really tell us.) The ten dreams are presented baldly, totally unconnected to anything else that occurs in the plot, except that we suddenly are told that because of his dream experiences Spock is able to begin to relate physically to Kirk in the way Kirk wants him to. We're not shown how this basic transforation in Spock occurs, we're not even told why. We're just shown the dreams, and then shown an action, and it's up to the reader to supply all the drama that occurred in between.
The five dreams that Kirk has don't even have as little impact as the ones dreamt by Spock, and I am at a total loss as to why they were included in this story. They should have been edited out. If they exist, they should do so for a reason, and be used to draw some sort of conclusion about the character, or provide an impetus for action later in the plot. No part of any story should exist in a vacuum. Gratuitous writing, no matter how well done, can never be pretty.
What's missing here? It's the emotion between the lines. A friend of mine is fond of saying that K/S stories give her more 'feeling' than any other type of literature. I have to agree. And it's that feeling that is missing in "A Deltan Decameron."
I would be remiss in not acknowledging the positive aspects of this story. The idea itself is novel. The presentation of the Deltans was interesting. Jai was a wonderful character, and I loved the way the Deltans would say Ai, Ai! The image of a plaster statue of Spock, with only eyes moving was marvelous.My complaint is with the structure of this story, and how far the author commits herself to her tale emotionally. It's a medieval cathedral, with a blueprint that would send it soaring to the sky. The foundation has been laid, and two of the walls give promise that the rest of the structure will be magnificent. But it's only half-built, and the workers have all walked away. How frustrating, to see the half-built achievement over the horizon. 
This may, in all seriousness, be the best K/S story I have ever read. I say this even though this story also seems to me to squander a potential to be even greater than it is. I frankly can't think of any other K/S writer who has produced anything as richly imagined, as urbanely witty, as literate, as this. To search for comparisons. I'm forced to go to names like Peter Beagle and Anne McCaffrey, and I'm tempted to make comparisons to C.S. Lewis., Donald Barthelmew, and John Updike. The author, in fact, uses a technique employed by Updike -- she writes some scenes in the present tense in order to make them both more immediate and more dreamlike (only one of many expert flourishes in this story). This is, quite simply, an author who knows the craft of writing fiction and knows it well. The story has a fabulous (in the root Aesopian sense) fairy tale brilliance. Spock, "married" to Kirk but still sexually and emotionally repressed ("We seldom imagine: we do not dream." he tells a disappointed Kirk), is given a temporary assignment on Delta -- the planet known for its erotically "advanced" culture. While there, Spock is asked by Jai, a member of an android servant class, to meid with him to determine whether he, Jai, has consciousness. When Spock asks of what benefit it will be to the android to know he has consciousness, Jai impassionately responds that then he will never be deactivated again. Deactivation is Jai's greatest horror. He describes it as: "Nothing, no love, no comfort, no friends. Eyes see: ears hear: heart wants: but can do nothing. Nothing!" Spock melds with Jai and discovers that the android is, indeed, fully sentient. This necessitates a major reordering of Deitan society in the form of the enfranchisement of the androids. But more importantly for the story, it results in Spock taking a self-liberating step. While in Jai's mind, Spock sees an image of himself as Jai sees him: a statue, frozen in white marble, with only the black searching eyes revealing the living being inside. Jai has also seen into Spock's mind, and at the end of the meld, Jai expresses his grief at the emotional impoverishment he has seen there, saying "Ai Commander, so sad for you! Ai! Ai! To live thus! Not understanding loving. Worse than permanent deactivation." Jai persuades Spock to let the love Spock has touched in the android's mind act as a spark to free his own capacity for love. Jai tells him that the love will pass into his dreams. When Spock protests that he does not remember his dreams, Jai reainds him of a blank-paged book called "The Book of Dreams" that Spock has bought at a Deltan toy shop. When placed beneath a sleeper's pillow, the book captures the sleeper's dreams on the book's pages. Spock agrees to use the book, and also sends another of the blank "Book of Dreams" to Kirk. What follows are five of Spock's captured "dreams" and five captured dreams of Kirk, each an illustration of one of the Greek forms of love. The most successful dream seemed to me to be one which paired a Kirk who is a professional gambler with an adolescent Spock, and included Gary Mitchell as a blind prostitute complex enough to be both victim and victimizer. This dream was related with gritty, grime- streaked realism: it could have been a story all to itself, and in fact. I wish it had been longer. Another that I liked extremely well featured Spock as the naive and very proper adolescent fiance of a sexually precocious Kirk. The rendering of the dreams is stunningly versatile. The writing shifts effortlessly between the surrealistic, the Gothic, a Regency romance style, and more. And yet, it was in this section that I felt that "A Deitan Decameron" momentarily lost its sense of direction and with it some of its power. The problem lay with the inclusion of Kirk's dreams. The "capturing" (what a wonderful image!) of Spock's dreams was integral to the story's purpose: the point of capturing Kirk's dreams was far less clear and their inclusion made the story begin to feel ungainly and sprawling. After all, it is the congenitally inhibited Spock coming to an understanding of love that is the story's point. Spock's fumbling, backsliding pursuit of friendship and "belonging" is a recurrent concern of the series and the movies. By choosing this theme as its subject (how does each soul locked inside itself reach out and connect with others?). "A Deltan Decameron" addresses itself, allegorically, to a central and enduring question that any serious work of fiction must pose. The story does eventually return to this question, but only after the digression into Kirk's dreams takes its toll on the story's clarity of vision. Ultimately, my wish that "A Deltan Decameron" maintained a more single-minded focus is in part an indication of my rapt and total engagement with the story's aims. This is gifted writing from the first page until it gracefully settles its wings with an ending that, as any good ending should, feels also like a beginning. I've never seen anything else by the this author, but after reading this effort, I'm going to be tracking down everything she has in print and hoping for more -- much more -- to come. 
I was amazed to read in a previous KSP that this story had been criticised when first published for being "too literary" and even worse, that its talented author had been put off further work as a result. (Another editor's note: I hope not—I adored this story!—S.B.)
I can only assume that said critics felt that one had to have an in-depth knowledge of various kinds of fiction in order to appreciate all the allusions in the dreams experienced by Kirk and Spock and recorded in the Deltan books of dreams that Spock has purchased whilst on temporary assignment on Delta IV. The premise of the story is that there is tension between the new bondmates due to Spock's sexual inhibitions made worse by a misunderstanding on Kirk's part, and compounded by a mental encounter Spock has with a Deltan servant android—in the process discovering that the androids are sentients. The vision of Deltan society is imaginatively conceived and sustained, the android consciousness issues well developed, and the dreams—I caught the references to many, not all, of the various facets of love explored by Spock and Kirk. But I don't think an appreciation of this story depends on that, any more than on the (albeit enjoyable) hobby of spotting who is who from the ST universe in each little playlet. I was blown away by the range and variety of Frances' imagination and style, and by her ability to hold it all together in her framework. Even the relative length of the dreams seem to have been carefully plannedbvto balance the whole and emphasize what each prtner fears and fantasizes most. The bondmates are at times shocked by what their subconscious reveals, but I could see true resonances and possibilities in their personalities and life experiences. In particular the story where Spock is a millionaire trader and Kirk is his casual, faithless, manipulative companion. (Kirk) "You see, I figure if I have everyone with any small bit of you about them, if I collect it all, I'll finally have you yourself." "But you have me now!" "No, I don't. I can no more have all of you than someone can own a cat. Can't be done." (Kirk again, later): "You've done your best to buy me, Spock, to load me down with your golden chains," he moves his wrist and the watch bracelet and slave bracelet grate softly together. "But there's one bit of me not for sale. I won't sell you my fidelity: that you can't have."
So much, so fine: this is Spock's dream, his fears that Kirk will not remain faithful if Spock does not respond adequately, that he will return to his promiscuous lifestyle. But it could be Kirk's too, the despair of ever truly plumbing the depths of his mate's soul, the thought of turning to others for, as Uhura wisely remarks to Spock in the tender confidante scene near the end of Frances' tale "something absent from but desired within [a relationship]." Every story in this collection by turns is dark, humorous, ironic and sincere, is a gem, and the whole adds up to one of my all-time favourite pieces of fan fiction, right up there with SOJOURNS and NIGHTVISIONS. We actually have a copy of Boccaccio's Decameron bequeathed by my husband's presumably respectable Victorian grandmother (!). I've only once opened it; I must go back with Frances' excellent tale in the back of my mind.Only one niggle: I'd really like to have read the "night before" that resulted in the "morning after" apology: "About that Boy Scout crack last night. I was out of line to joke about it." The mind boggles...but then perhaps that's the idea.
In all my years of reading gen and K/S, I've never read a more unusual story than this. In my opinion there is simply nothing else like it in our genre. (As this was published seventeen years ago, I'm going to relate a few details here.)
Spock and Jim Kirk have become bonded, but all is not well in paradise. Spock cannot prevent himself from standing as bystander to the intimate aspects of sharing himself with his lover. He has not found the inner switch that turns off the logical, analytical part of his brain and allows him to feel and share his deepest emotions. This has caused some friction between them. Spock fears that Kirk will eventually tire of him and become unfaithful. '"Don't you have fantasies—dreams?' Kirk turned to him in appeal. 'Jim,' Spock admonished sadly, 'you know I do not. We seldom imagine; we do not dream.'" Spock is sent to Delta IV on a mission for Starfleet to transpose programs written for Deltans—the most sensual and loving of civilizations—into ones that would be less distracting and of more pragmatic use to other member worlds of the Federation. With his A7 computer rating and Vulcan ability to distance himself from Deltan pheromones, Spock seems the ideal choice for the assignment. No expense is spared by the government to see that Starfleet's representative is afforded every comfort including providing androids to attend to all his needs. Their attentions supremely unsettle Spock. Ironically, the captain calls on vid-phone when Spock is surrounded by a crowd of what appear to be Deltan admirers and jumps to the wrong conclusion.
One day in an effort to avoid going to the residence provided for him, Spock explores the city. In a small shop he finds a book that will record dreams. In desperation he buys two and sends one to Kirk, retaining one for himself in the hope that he does dream but doesn't remember them. What follows are descriptions of the dreams both men have, dreams that explore the six aspects of love; storge, pragma, mania, eros, ludus and agape. (It's not often a K/S story will send me off to do research, but this one did.) The dreams themselves are *fascinating*. So many facets of Kirk and Spock's relationship are exposed and examined. Fears uncovered. Hidden personality traits revealed. These are very complicated men, but we all knew that. A meld that Spock has with one of the androids creates some problems he never imagined...and provides some answers to others he never expected. I love this depiction of Spock; vulnerable, searching, loving and uniquely himself.A mature, captivating story. Looking for something substantial to read? This is it.